Ready to teach? A professional biographical study on the entry of teachers into the profession

The research project deals with the question of how first-time teachers become professional in the central requirement areas of the teaching profession. Here, one's orientation within the teaching profession is considered as well as the development of competences.

Entry into the teaching profession is considered a key phase in the professional biography of teachers. Career starters are confronted with the diverse, complex and sometimes contradictory requirements of the teaching profession, which requires professional action. The Bern University of Teacher Education Orientation Framework (2012) describes professionalism dimensions on the basis of competences in ten requirement areas which are relevant to the teaching profession. Four of these refer to lessons: lesson planning and implementation, assessment and diagnostics, support and guidance, and class leadership. A further five areas concern school education: cooperation with the school management and the college, with the parents, with the professionals and institutions, school and teaching development, and administration and organisation. Another central dimension of professionalism relates to the professional and personal development of teachers. Against this background, the study focuses on the question of how professionally gifted teachers become more professional in relevant areas of the teaching profession.

The study is situated theoretically in Teacher’s Biographical research. Such a perspective focuses on the development of teacher’s professionalism in the context of job-specific requirements. Professionalization stands for the professional biographical process through which teaching Personal find their way into the structures of their profession and acquires the skills necessary for their practice. The guiding principle is that of a reflective practitioner, as an active learning person who deals with the professional requirements in a reflexive way, and brings them into alignment with their own resources. Personal resources are taken into account in the research project as competency assessments in the ten areas of responsibility of Bern University of Teacher Education, motivational orientation, self-efficacy expectation and personality dimensions. The social resources relate to support at the workplace, the university and the private sector.

In order to assess the professionalization over the entire career entry phase, 269 prospective teachers studying preschool and primary school teaching at Bern University of Teacher Education were asked about their personal and social resources at the end of their studies. Three further quantitative surveys, carried out using questionnaires, took place upon commencing work, at the end of the first, and at the end of the second year of employment. These questionnaire surveys are supplemented by semi-structured interviews at the beginning of the second year of employment. The sample for the qualitative survey is drawn from the quantitative data using the selective sampling method and is composed of about 30 people.

While the skills assessments of teachers starting their careers are examined longitudinally and depending on their personal and social resources in the quantitative survey, the qualitative questionnaire deals with the question of how teachers at the start of their teaching careers find their way into the structures of the teaching profession.

The results of the research project serve to gain a deeper understanding of the professionalization of teachers in the vocational training phase in the canton of Bern and are therefore of central importance for teacher education and the school.

The research project is being carried out in cooperation with the joint project "Study-related career entry" (SBBE) by Institut Primarstufe and IWD.